Letter from a Friend

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1102 Box Canyon Road Fallbrook, California 92028

My friend Mr. Joe Glenn, 23338 99th Street, Anamosa, Iowa, 52205, an acquaintance I have made through his identification of my query in a past issue of GEM, recently wrote me the following letter, in which he is very descriptive of his past farming activities. I thought his reminiscences would make a nice story for you GEM readers, and so you'll find interesting quotes from his letter below.

'The Titan 15-30 was apparently first marketed in 1915. In 1918 it became known as the International 15-30 and was pretty much the same tractor. In 1921 this was replaced by the McCormick-Deering 15-30.

'In my time, I have worked in the field with a McCormick-Deering 15-30 and the last version of it that was known to farmers as a 22-36. This was a real powerhouse in its day!

'This old powerhouse was mounted on rubber tires that were full of fluid. It pulled a 4-14' McCormick-Deering No. 8 Little Genius plow 7' or 8' deep in high gear in heavy clay or black gumbo soil in high gear. It was used at four miles per hour and we also pulled a three row John Deere stalk cutter followed by a Case 10 foot tandem disk, with a 10 foot two section harrow behind the disk. It also pulled a large Letz Dixie roughage mill for grinding feed for livestock. I also, over the years, worked on lots of John Deere, Allis Chalmers, Farmall and Case tractors, and later on Olivers, Fords, Massey Harris. I don't remember ever working either a Minneapolis-Moline or Twin City tractor. My father was a livestock farmer. He had a fine herd of grade Holstein dairy cows, a good string of Angus beef cows, a decent sized herd of far row-to-finish market hogs, a small flock of sheep. And Mother always had about 600 baby chicks of which the young cockerels were sold in the fall for school and winter clothes and the new pullets went into the laying house. With all of this livestock on a 200-acre farm with eighty acres of crops things were very busy seven days a week. Someone asked Dad why he kept so much livestock. He said, 'It's good for my two boys. It keeps them off of the roads and out of the pool halls and taverns.

'Machinery was just a necessary evil, although Dad had a lot more than most people. He had a tractor before most of the neighbors had one. He first had a Heider that he used mostly to do belt work, grinding feed, shelling corn, baling hay and straw, filling silo, shredding corn fodder, sawing wood, etc. All I ever remember him using it was in the oat fields to pull the grain binder in hot weather because you could kill horses on a binder.

'Later he had a Fordson. Now this Fordson was loaded with lots of optional equipment. As a Fordson came out, it didn't have a governor, magneto, water pump, air cleaner, etc. This one Dad got in 1932. It was foreclosed on by the bank. It had an optional governor, high tension magneto, water pump, air cleaner, special gears in the transmission to cut down the heat and howling, lights, special belt pulley, power take off, even a frame under the tractor hitched to the front of the drawbar and hooked to the front of the tractor behind the front wheels so it would not turn over backwards. This little outfit did lots of hard work for years. There was also a good line of machinery with it, even a Belle City corn picker. In 1938 Dad bought a new Farmall F-14 that we used with the Fordson. Boy, did we get things done then!

'I pretty much took over the care of the machinery. I did the servicing. There were mechanics in town who made a living doing that.

'My job was also to help take care of the livestock. That is where the income came from. There was a cream check each two weeks, eggs paid for the groceries and to keep the home going. Hogs and baby beefs were sold as well as market lambs. We had a corn picker and later we had a Case pickup-baler in 1941 and a Massey-Harris self propelled 7 foot combine.

'The biggest threshing machine I ever worked around was a 40' Great Minneapolis with a Great Minneapolis 35-70. The smallest was 21' Wood Brothers powered by an Allis Chalmers WC. In between there was a 24' New Racine powered by a Farmall regular, a 28' McCormick-Deering powered by that 22-36. The smoothest running outfit I ever worked around was a 32' Nichols & Shepard Red River Special powered by a 1937 McCormick-Deering W40. Boy, that big six cylinder engine really made beautiful stack music! It really did a fine clean job of separating. In this area the crop was mostly oats with a little rye and barley almost no wheat. For a year or two just before WW II some people tried flax but that didn't last long. That was the hardest grain to thresh. By the time I came along, the threshing here was all done by tractors. The only work I ever saw done by a steam engine was on a sawmill that was sawing railroad ties for special order for the Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad.

'I was born and raised here in Jones County, Iowa, and have lived here all of my life. During WW II while a close friend of mine was in the US Marines (I couldn't serve then because of a bad back and heart trouble), I helped his father with his farming, as well as my own father. The main thing that I did besides these two mens' crops was a lot of custom corn husking with a Farmall M and a McCormick-Deering 2M, two row, mounted corn picker with three rubber tired wagons with flour grain boxes and a portable elevator. By starting early in hybrid corn I picked over 300 acres each year.

'These were the years 1942 through 1945. I did a little farm trucking now and then of livestock, grain, agricultural limestone. In 1957 I went to work at Collins Radio Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This is a company you probably never heard of, as their markets were the military, the government, the builders of commercial aircraft, communications companies, and they have been deeply involved in the space program from the very start. This company is now the Collins Division of Rockwell International. I met the lovely lady who has now been my better half for over forty years. We are friends, companions, help-mates, sweethearts, lovers, wife and husband.

'We retired on December 20, 1985. We do not have a large enough piece of property to justify owning a full sized tractor, so I collect toy ones. I have a very nice collection of mostly farm tractors, related machines, plus some construction toys, some cars and trucks. When I started to collect we didn't tell people what we collected because they would look out of the corners of their eyes as if they thought we had fallen out of our tree and landed on our heads. Now everybody wants to collect, and more power to them. We live less than 40 miles from Dyersville, Iowa, the farm toy capitol of the world. At the first national convention of toy collectors, there were 852 paid admissions. At the most recent convention the figures indicate the paid admissions approached 25,000 in three days! I have been to each of these conventions except the one held in 1986, when I was just out of the hospital from a massive coronary attack and my family would not let me attend.

'I have never seen anyone drunk at the convention. Never have seen a fight or other disturbance. You also lament the lack of interaction between parents and children. At this event you would be surprised at how many fathers and sons are there making serious decisions about whether to buy the green one here or the red one across the aisle or the yellow one down the line or the orange one around the corner or the blue one across the room. Of course, the mothers and' daughters are there too.  There are grandparents remembering things that happened in their younger days, just like the steam engine and tractor shows.

'Of course, there is that other group there. What are they doing there anyway? These guys between 16 and 25 are supposed to be out swilling beer, popping pills, using dope, wrecking cars and getting girls into trouble. But there they are, having fun with all of the rest of us. Many have their lady friends and wives with them. This is very much a family hobby.

'I have always wanted to visit Vista, California, but I doubt if I will ever make it now. Of course, the Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Reunion at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, is 100 miles south of us. We have been there many times.

'I will be 70 on August 29, 1994. I enjoy these letters from other people. Best Wishes from East Central Iowa.'